Look into my eyes
Like most people I know, I’ve long given up trying to figure out our politician’s hidden agendas. Unlike other ‘normal’ people, most politicians will look straight into your eyes and say anything that they think you want to hear.
Even after a long winded debate such as the one held between Anglu Farrugia and Simon Busutill last Saturday, it is still very hard to figure out which one of them is genuine, which one of them means what he says, and more importantly which one will execute his promises as planned.
This means, that if we are really and truly unbiased, and if we are really and truly trying to figure out whom to vote for during the electoral campaign, all we’re going to end up having to go on is an individual’s debating skills and how they fare compared to their opposition.
What worries me is that in Malta, most politicians who are better at public speaking and debating are not better because of some professional intense training. On the contrary, most of those who are better at getting to their point eloquently and effectively are naturals. But, when you are a natural in persuading people about things that you yourself are not convinced of, of things you know depend so much on others that could never be promised, then you are likely to be good at it because you are a natural at deceit.
For my sanity, last Saturday I didn’t watch the debate live. Instead I recorded the whole thing and watched it in the morning. It was the best decision I made all year because had I not been able to fast-forward the most painful parts of it I might have just thrown myself off the terrace.
Anglu must have been trained; most likely brainwashed, and probably threatened, not to let his temper show at any cost.
He went as far as not even raising his voice when in certain instances he would have been justified to. But if you ever saw the guy give a public speech before, you’d think that on Saturday he was on some very effective little yellow pill.
He also looked like he was trained not to say ‘on the record’ or ‘off the record’ but it was clear that this was a conscious and painful self-censorship exercise which resulted in an annoying stammer.
Another thing he consciously tried not to let out was his forceful police attitude. He got rid of his facial hair and did his best to keep his cool. But then a few minutes in, he let his interrogation skills slip in when he asked Simon to ‘look at him’ when he spoke. After that, the image that took up a room in my head was that of a bright light bulb pointed at a squinting suspect, a dingy police cell, and Anglu badgering for answers.
In some cases he didn’t have his facts right, but unlike what happened with the Prime Minister’s Brazil blunder, in Anglu’s case everybody assumed that he simply doesn’t know how to read a list or a chart. No one, as far as I know, thought that he was purposefully lying. Now whether he prefers to be perceived as a fool or a liar is another story because when it comes to politics ignorance might work better than purposeful deceit. After all you can always teach a man that Colombia is not in Africa but can you teach him honesty?
Simon Busutill was well prepared….very well prepared, so much so that some are speculating that he knew what the questions would be, but short of real proof of this I have to say that he was simply very well prepared with facts and knowledge at the tip of his tongue.
He handled the situation like a pro who trained for this sort of thing at Debate Central.
His replies turned into smooth monologues, each one pushing a different party agenda.
He was calm and collected and he managed interruptions so easily that I could only conclude that he’s a natural at ignoring people.
He even had the alertness to look at the different cameras on cue, addressing the public when he thought it necessary, and looking at Peppi when not.
But as much as I prefer him from Lawrence Gonzi (for one because he voted in favour of divorce), on Saturday, his monotone, combined with his slow blinking rate, and slow movements, gave me the same feeling that sociopaths give their victims when they calmly look them straight in the eye and tell them that they’re about to tear their heart out with a fork.
So after sitting through an hour long debate I’m none the wiser. I guess Mahatma Gandhi was right when he said that “it is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.” (NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY)